- ‘The best democracy’ debunked
- MH370 search: new ‘sightings’ fuel conspiracy theories
- [VIDEO] BBC: MH370 — Anwar Ibrahim condemns ‘cover-up’
- [INTERVIEW] Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim at BBC
- Is power sector reform stalled by Putrajaya’s intervention?
- Survey: Most Malaysians against GST, don’t trust Putrajaya to implement it
Posted: 06 Jun 2014 09:10 AM PDT
Finally, it has dawned on Najib Abdul Razak that Malaysiakinireaders are not worth winning over and he is now going for the jugular by serving the news portal a writ of summons over defamation.
This is the man who, upon assuming the highest political office in the country five years ago, conceded that "the days the government knows best are over", and went on to introduce a host of 'reformist' measures. He also declared unashamedly that he would make Malaysia 'the best democracy in the world'.
But what evolved in the years after has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that Najib had promised Malaysians gems but delivered worse than pebbles.
Indeed, he abolished the infamous Internal Security Act, but has kept intact, rather cunningly, the Sedition Act which was supposed to be also repealed.
Had Najib been sincere in any reform agenda, his administration would have been refrained from using the Sedition Act pending its replacement. Instead, Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei, the Sri Muda assemblyperson, is still fighting his case at the Federal Court, while Teresa Kok became the latest victim over her, okay, not-so-tasteful Chinese New Year video clip.
Much as I detest the arbitrary law, it remains morally outrageous to see the Umno-friendly individuals – from Ibrahim Ali, Zulkifli Noordin, Ridhuan Tee to the Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) clowns – above it. The shameless double standard only debunks further the myth of national unity as Najib has mendaciously pledged.
Still, the mainstream newspapers praised him to the skies back in April 2009 as if Malaysia's elevation to a full democracy was nigh. Just look at Tay Tian Yan of Sin Chew Daily who wrote unabashedly of Najib as being "confident and capable… ready to be a prime minister for all Malaysians". Yes, go laugh your head off before reading on.
But Najib's desperate move only exposes his vulnerability within the party. When he sought to exert his authority as party president and prime minister by removing Ahmad Said from office, the former Terengganu chief minister pulled off a last-minute coup over, amusingly, his daughter's wedding and the s**t hit the fan.
Prior to that, Najib had come under enormous pressure from the ultras within the party and a vengeful Mahathir Mohamad from without. His inability to rein in Ahmad Said is just another indicator of his untenable position, and so livid was he that he decided to punish Malaysiakini for his own failings.
Waging war with all parties except…
Truth be told, it is Umno's mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia that has been churning out defamatory stories and waging war with all parties except its own political masters.
For DAP, is it 'a Christian agenda'; for PKR, it is 'DAP's poodle'; for PAS, it is 'selling out the Malays', for Nurul Izzah Anwar, it is 'apostasy'; for Ambiga Sreenevasan, it is 'a threat to Islam'; for Anwar Ibrahim, it is 'sexual deviation'; for Malaysiakini, it is 'the habit of defaming others' and, for peace-loving Malaysians who took part in the Bersih rallies, what else but a bunch of 'samseng' who came with 'knives, guns and stones with an intention to kill'!
If there is one person who should feel the righteous wrath at being insulted, humiliated and defamed on a daily basis, it should be the ordinary Malaysian who is yearning for change but is made to suffer all the innuendos and racist statements at the hands ofUtusan and other Umno-controlled media, on which Najib has been conspicuous by his silence.
And Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK - right) has the nerve to accuse Malaysians of humbuggery in acquiescing to Anwar's lawsuits against those who have defamed him.
I am pretty certain RPK has sold his soul to the devil and now chosen to see only what he wants to see. Anwar, or any potential rivals to Umno for that matter, is compelled to resort to court to clear his name precisely because his right of reply is persistently denied and even suppressed by the powers-that-be.
By contrast, not only that Malaysiakini has afforded Najib a right of reply, but Umno has also the entire state machinery to rebut and even distort whatever that is reported by online portals. Can RPK who is purportedly wise and discerning not see the crucial difference?
Be that as it may, the public should welcome Najib's lawsuit, for it will once and for all shatter his image as a pseudo-democrat.
I would say: Bring it on Najib, but make sure you will not be dodging critical questions in court. After all, it is you and your government that will be put on trial for the whole world to see, your advantage of having some malleable judges on your side notwithstanding.
Posted: 06 Jun 2014 09:06 AM PDT
Flight MH370 has been missing for nearly three months, but a fresh ‘sighting’ and underwater noise are fuelling conspiracy theories
The failure to find wreckage from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane and the slow release of official information has left the troubled hunt mired in uncertainty and continues to spawn a growing range of sightings and conspiracy theories.
Almost three months since the Boeing 777 and its 239 passengers went missing, the search has found no debris and criminal investigators have found no evidence of terrorism or a motivation behind the apparently deliberate sabotage of the plane.
The search has focused for months on a stretch of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, but the entire operation is relying on satellite data that was never intended to chart the course of the plane.
Meanwhile, distraught families across the world hold hope that their loved ones may have survived and have led a push for the release of all information about the flight.
Authorities in Australia continue to believe the plane is somewhere in the south Indian Ocean and have pledged to press ahead with the underwater operation, releasing a tender calling for companies to conduct the search.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the lack of firm evidence of the plane’s final resting point and the failure to find debris has led to a growing number of conspiracy theories and possible sightings.
This followed various other sightings shortly after the plane disappeared, including claims the plane flew low over houses in the Maldives or near an oil rig off the coast of Vietnam.
Others have speculated that military authorities must have access to radar data which has not been disclosed; indeed, there has been surprisingly little data made available despite the plane disappearing in a part of Asia that has become increasingly tense in recent years.
Others have gone further, claiming the plane may have landed on an airfield in troubled or overlooked parts of the world, from Afghanistan to the Andaman Islands.
Meanwhile, information continues to trickle out.
In the past two weeks, authorities in Malaysia released the cargo manifest and the satellite data used to plot the apparent course of the plane after it made its unexplained turn south.
A scientist in Australia is investigating a noise detected by underwater equipment which has been traced back to a location somewhere off the tip of India.
Authorities leading the search in Australia have been forced to make the embarrassing admission that they searched the wrong area for months and that there was no debris in a zone in which apparent black box pings were heard.
But they continue to insist that the satellite data is an accurate guide to the plane’s whereabouts, even as they shift to a new uncertain phase in the search. The next phase, to begin in August, will cover more than 23,000 square miles.
It is due to take 12 months – leaving plenty of time for further claims, theories and official data.
Posted: 06 Jun 2014 08:20 AM PDT
Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim talks about his legal battle, opposition politics and Malaysia’s missing airliner.
Posted: 06 Jun 2014 08:20 AM PDT
This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now
Posted: 06 Jun 2014 12:51 AM PDT
Prior to 2004, licences were awarded to the Independent Power Producers (IPP) by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) on a directly-negotiated basis. It is a well-known fact that only the well-connected were awarded the licences which paved the way to raking in millions if not billions, due to “sweetheart” deals of the first generation IPP's Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA).
That the first generation IPPs enjoyed mid-teen project's IRR (Internal Rate of Return – a yardstick used to measure financial viability of a project) is an open secret. That this rent-seeking behaviour had ultimately contributed to higher cost of electricity is synonymous with the hey-day of privatisation ala-Mahathirnomics.
Needless to say, power plants are surely “gold–mines” where concessionaires lock in their cash-flows for at least the next 20 years.
The industry players in the power sector were relieved when the Najib administration embarked on a spate of reforms which were to see, among other core reforms, a competitive tender to be undertaken for the award of future IPPs.
Moving in that direction, MyPower Corp which was established in 2010, a unit under the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, was to spearhead the reforms so as to ensure the cheapest cost of energy delivered to the consumer.
Since 2011, the EC has conducted four competitive biddings. Tenaga Prai power plant (capacity 1.071 MW) was awarded by the EC to Tenaga (TNB) after a stiff bidding process. It was reported that 18 participants submitted their bids. Tenaga outbid the rest, with a levelised tariff of 34.7 sen/kWh and a project IRR of between 6 and 7%. This price now seems to be an industrial benchmark.
The latest competitive bid was the project 3B that was to build a 2,000 MW coal-fired power plant. The EC controversially awarded it to 1MDB despite it not being the lowest but based on technical grounds.
Much to the chagrin of the industrial players in the power sector, the reform is now perceived as being placed on the backburner and the EC is ostensibly making a U-turn, a regression of sorts.
Project 4A is a combined gas-fired turbine plant with a 1,100 MW to 1,400MW capacity. Sources said that the decision on the direct negotiation would help finalise the contract quickly and speed up the delivery of the power plant to address capacity shortage, following recent “outages” in several states.
These reasons, however, were not well received by the power players as it also defied logical thinking. The EC can't suddenly argue that the country is in dire need of electricity after the recent outages. Planning is an ongoing process. The EC must be transparent as to the real causes of the outages.
The installed capacity is currently at 21,000MW while peak demand comes to the range of 17,000MW. This provides a clear margin of 4,000MW. So taking account of anticipated outages and unplanned ones, there is a clearly a safe margin. There is no foreseeable surge in demands for electricity in the immediate future.
Different opinions prevailed between the EC and the industry players as to the “actual operating reserve margin”. Even after taking into account all scheduled (maintenance and repair) and unscheduled outages (due to lightning and mishaps like floods), industry players insist on achieving a 10% to 21% operating reserve margin.
They argued that gradual power planting would be pertinent and would also arguably avoid excess reserve margins which would only burden consumers.
TNB moreover has made it clear that another 7,000MW of electricity has been planned for commissioning for the next four years and will be coming on-stream by 2018. There is sufficient reserve capacity so as not to allow the repeat of 1992.
Hence, why the rush for an open-tender?
Despite the opposition, going by the latest turn of events, the EC has already offered “a conditional award” for the development of Project 4A to a “consortium that is made up of three prominent bidders” of the project, namely YTL, SIPP and TNB.
Now that the three supposedly top bidders have been asked to form a consortium, one wonders why you even called for an open tender in the first place!
The rakyat would surely want the EC to be transparent as to “what are the conditional offers”. What are the formulae and rates for the power produced by this plant that will be undertaken sold to TNB? One can't help thinking that the involvement of TNB is an eye-washer of sorts. Considering this is a direct-negotiated deal, it is expected that bigger transparency would be demanded from the Malaysian public.
Be that as it may, such political interference doesn't augur well for Malaysia and, in fact, damages our credibility in the eyes of the international business community. We shall perhaps be their last destination for further high tech industry since investors are afraid of flip-flopping and uncertainties in policies.
To make it worse, the recent comment by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh urging an end of “capital capitalism” seems both weird and unbecoming as well as hollow. Many perceive that he has outwardly contradicted his own rise in the power sector and, more importantly, his current attempt at securing the project deal 4A deal through connections with the royalty.
YTL International Power Berhad owns the majority share in the holding company of SIPP Power Sdn Bhd while SIPP Energy Sdn Bhd owns 30% share of the SIPP Power Sdn Bhd. For transparency and best practice, Francis should come clean to explain all these rather than simply pronouncing lofty ideals of battling “crony capitalism” in Corporate Malaysia.
Searches in Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM) have shown that HRH Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, Sultan Johor, is the majority (51%) shareholder of SIPP Energy while the majority (3 out of 5) of SIPP Power directors are siblings of YTL International Power Bhd managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh and executives within the YTL Group.
In the final analysis, it is important to register that this U-turn and flip-flop in policy is certainly not doing good to Malaysia as an investment destination. The chairman of the EC must be reminded that he is placed in the EC to undertake this reform.
Should he insist on the “direct negotiation”, will he allow for a "Swiss Challenge" from the other equally competent bidders?
It serves the new EC well to do a “Tan-Sri Ani Arope”, ie to exit graciously as a protest to the Najib's flip-flop policy. That will go down well in history as a commitment for change and reform.
Posted: 06 Jun 2014 12:50 AM PDT
Despite Putrajaya’s multi-million ringgit marketing blitz to promote the goods and services tax (GST), a survey by a private university still found that a majority of Malaysians are against the consumption tax due next April 1.
Among other things, the survey by UCSI of 700 respondents showed that they do not accept the consumption tax, do not think the government can implement it effectively and that they are satisfied with the present tax system.
In presenting the survey's findings, UCSI poll research centre chief executive Dr Ngerng Miang Hong said that a significant number of respondents were also still uncertain about how the tax system would work.
The survey's findings echo the results of a similar poll in April and could hamper Putrajaya’s efforts to get the public to buy into the new tax system, which it says is necessary to raise government revenue.
The survey's most startling result found that 80% of respondents were not confident that the government would be able to implement GST effectively.
A huge majority of respondents also felt that the new tax system may be effective in other countries but may be abused by the Malaysian government.
A total of 41.7% strongly agreed with the assertion that GST "is more effective in other countries but may be abused by our government", with 37.5% agreeing with that statement.
Some 66% of respondents felt that the new tax will not improve the economy, while more than 83% of them believed that it will burden low- and middle-income citizens.
And 59% did not feel that they could accept the GST, the survey showed.
At the same time, 49% wanted the current sales and service tax system to continue versus 32% who felt that it was time to switch to the GST.
To illustrate how people were still unsure about the effects of GST, Ngerng said about 45.9% said they were not sure how the tax affects their cost of living while more than 47% said they were sure.
Ngerng said the survey was conducted both online and at face-to-face meetings with both rural and urban respondents between the ages of 20 and 45.
Respondents were not identified according to ethnicity but claimed that they came from diverse backgrounds.
Ngerng announced the results at a forum titled "GST: good or bad" at UCSI in Kuala Lumpur last night.
The government plans to scrap the old sales and services tax system and replace it with a broad-based 6% GST tax that will be levied on almost everything except a list of essential goods in April next year.
Some of the goods exempted from GST include fresh food, public transport, healthcare, domestic water and education fees.
However, the tax has attracted wide public opposition with a May 1 rally against it attracting up to 15,000 people in Dataran Merdeka.
A few days later, independent pollster Merdeka Center released a survey which showed that 62% of its respondents being against the consumption tax.
The Merdeka Center survey also found that 33% of their respondents did not understand how the new system would work.
Its critics said the GST would hit disproportionately low- and middle-income earners but the Datuk Seri Najib Razak administration claimed it was necessary to trim the national deficit.
Putrajaya then announced it was spending RM250 million to explain the new tax to the public and to train businesses on how to use it.
A speaker at the UCSI forum from Barisan Nasional Youth, Neil Foo Seck Chyn, said that enforcement was key to ensuring that the new tax system did not lead to a sharp hike in prices next year.
Foo said according to the Finance Ministry, only 10% of a list of 689 common items were expected to go up in price once the GST was implemented.
"Many of the things we consume now, such as teh tarik, already have a 10% sales tax levied on it. It's just that we don't realise it because businesses include it in the final price they charge us," said Foo, who is BN Youth strategist.
"But when we take away the 10% and replace it with 6%, the price should come down. But it is up to the government to enforce this so that businesses do not try to charge us 10% and add 6%."
Another speaker, Ong Kian Ming of DAP, however, said businesses have no incentive to lower prices even if the prices of raw materials were lower because of GST.
Also, there is very little assurance that the government will be more accountable in how it uses the extra revenue earned from the system.
"If you collect more money without accountability, you will just end up wasting more," said Ong, referring to wastage in government spending, highlighted in the yearly auditor general reports.
It was reported that in its first year, GST will earn the government an additional RM3 billion.
However, Pakatan Rakyat claimed that leakages in the BN government's spending cost taxpayers between RM25 billion and RM40 billion a year.
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